By Larry Woody
Talented young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson is temporarily sidelined with a broken kneecap suffered in a hard crash at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway last week, but says he “can’t wait” to get back in a race car.
“Wrecks are going to eventually happen,” says the 13-year-old seventh-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy who last year was crowned the youngest champion in the 60-year history of Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.
“It was scary, and at first I thought I’d broken my leg,” says Chase, whose left knee is in a protective brace. “But I’ll be OK.”
“It shook me up,” says Chase’s father Andy, also a former Fairgrounds Speedway track champion.
“I was watching from the top of the truck when it happened,” Andy says. “I jumped down and ran over, and when I got there, Chase was yelling, ‘My leg! My leg!’ I thought it was broke.”
Chase was removed from his demolished car and taken by ambulance to a Huntsville hospital. Initial X-rays didn’t reveal the fracture, but after returning home, another hospital visit showed a broken knee cap.
Chase is expected to wear the brace for two-to-three weeks, and doctors predict a complete recovery.
As soon as he is able, Chase plans to get back in a race car.
“I can’t wait,” he says.
“He tried to drive a few practice laps in our Supertruck last Sunday at the Fairgrounds,” his father says, “but he wasn’t able to work the clutch with the brace on his knee.”
During his long racing career, Andy suffered only one injury.
“Back in the late 1990’s I broke my hand in wreck,” he says. “I don’t remember much about it, but it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t even put a cast on it.”
Seeing their son injured – and knowing it could have been much worse — was an emotional moment for Andy and Chase’s step-mom Allison.
“It really tore her up,” Andy says. “And I admit it tore me up too. It was a hard hit and looked pretty bad.”
Chase was battling another car for position when they collided, and Chase was spun head-on into the retaining wall.
“It happened so fast that I didn’t realize what was happening,” Chase says. “The other car came down on me, and the next thing I knew I was in the wall. I knew right off that my leg was hurt. It was pretty painful, and I thought it was broke.”
The Huntsville race was the first of the season for Chase, after two scheduled events at the Fairgrounds were rained out. The Nashville track finally ran its first points races of the season last Sunday.
Chase hopes to be back behind the wheel in time for Fairground Speedway’s next feature in a couple of weeks, but missing a race puts him in a deep hole in terms of competing for another championship. The two rainouts has reduced an already-short schedule, leaving less chances for a rally.
But although Chase’s title hopes suffered a blow, and even though his car was virtually totaled, his father says that’s OK.
“There’ll be lots of other races, and we have more race cars,” he says. “But we have only one son. We lost a car, but we have Chase, and that’s all that matters.”
Larry Woody is The Democrat’s motorsports writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.